KATY (Covering Katy) – The Katy Area Economic Development Council has not changed its position that it is one of the entities responsible for bringing an expected 1,000 jobs to Katy/Waller County even though those who were involved in the negotiation with the internet retail giant Amazon say the KAEDC had no meaningful role in the negotiations and were only involved in two early meetings months before the project was finalized.
Critics of the KAEDC say the organization has a long history of taking credit for economic success stories that it had little or nothing to do with negotiating.
The KAEDC has come under fire after it altered an Amazon press release that announced the news that it was building a 1 million square foot distribution center in Katy/Waller County. The alteration added two paragraphs that, among other things, claimed the KAEDC “provided coordination with all entities involved.” It also removed the Amazon press contact information and replaced it with the contact information for Lance LaCour, KAEDC president and CEO. Doing so tells the media that LaCour is the man to interview for information about the story.
The KAEDC claims it had permission to alter the Amazon press release and distribute it to the media following Amazon’s decision to locate a distribution center in Katy/Waller County.
“We prepared a statement from our organization to be used regarding the announcement and forwarded it to Amazon for approval. It was approved,” said an email from Rick Ellis, KAEDC vice president. Still, Ellis did not produce a document proving that the KAEDC had approval from Amazon.
The KAEDC’s version of events run counter to what’s been said by sources at Katy City Hall and Vince Yokom of the Waller County Economic Development Partnership. They all say Amazon requested that only its press release be distributed, with absolutely no changes made to it. The story being told at Katy City Hall and by Yokom are consistent with what actually happened when the announcement was made. Neither Katy nor Waller County issued their own press release.
The KAEDC declined Covering Katy’s request that it provide documentation including phone records, calendar items and emails that would demonstrate any important involvement of the KAEDC in the deal. The KAEDC cited an Amazon nondisclosure agreement as the reason for not answering several direct questions from Covering Katy.
The press release distributed by Amazon contains quotes from the mayor of Katy and the Waller County judge, but there was no mention of the role of the KAEDC.
One of the most interesting claims by the KAEDC is that it had no way to produce phone records of the date and time of phone calls with those involved in the discussion. The KAEDC claims its phone providers do not have the ability to let its customers see their own call logs, something that is standard practice with virtually every phone provider in the United States.
“According to our inquiries with phone providers, we are not able to access phone logs,” Ellis said.
That response does not explain why the KAEDC does not feel obligated to internally track its efforts for the review of its board of directors, but it seems to imply that the organization’s board does not require this type of detailed oversight of its employees.
“Most EDC boards want to know what their CEO is doing. This is especially true in private EDCs where it is common to have local business leaders on the board,” said Yokom. The CEO’s actions will reflect on them and their business, so they should want to know what’s going on,” Yokom added.
“I think it’s reasonable to assume in general that the board approves of actions taken on behalf of an organization,” Yokom said.
Still, the KAEDC is taking a step back from the appearance that it is the point of contact on the project.
“We apologize if there was any misunderstanding on the information we shared,” said Ellis.
Click for the original story: Katy EDC accused of deceptively stealing Credit for Amazon Deal